Monday, May 3, 2010

Socialism- Now And Then

Dr Rama Manohara Lohia`s birth centenary celebrations last year went without much ado. The reasons are not many though. But for a seminar here or a symposium there Dr Lohia did not hog the head lines what with the media being always preoccupied with only the sensational or as it believes is what the reading public needs. But there are larger issues involved here. As a philosophy or an ideology or as a practising principle, does socialism have anything in sync with the contemporary world?

Revisiting Dr Lohia’s ideas in the back drop of the whole phenomenon called Socialism would plausibly help understand why this concept once so assiduously practised in the larger part of the 20th century and even before has suddenly come a cropper though in some areas of the world like China and in a few Latin American nations such as Uruguay, political governances are still engaged in societal and community participation even as Democracies selectively in quite a few parts of the world have tried to achieve socialism as also in India. But these governances ironically are very eager to dismantling socialist structures by trying to make their nations an integral part of a global world order. And indeed this order knitting and tatting different entities of globe into an amorphous unitary network is the deciding orbit which has been trying to deconstruct socialistic patterns of mundane existence. And our every day exposure to the politics of hegemony shows how we are treated to obliterating plural and multicultural tendencies of life. This in itself is a subtle prevarication of a social dynamics that is antithetical to the vortex of a global myth which tries to conceive and create notions of the world as being primary to a uniform global mystification and mythification.

Still we can dredge out metaphors from socialism and from those who had practised it for a meaningful dialogue in spheres of public discourses and literary and cultural narratives. For, there had always been a negotiated denouement between an endangered social ethos on the one hand and discourses, literary or otherwise trying to retrieve it on the other which provides for determining spaces where an ideology draws upon discursive texts for metaphors and valorises them for a destined purpose even as it transports its own to narratives of literature and culture augmenting a two way phenomenon. Though complementary this would always seem, it had at the same time been beset with dialectical detours which often times had contributed to the twin facets of precept and practice of socialism being seen in contrary positions. Of the ‘self’ and the ‘other’!

Lenin had once remarked, ‘Tolstoy is the mirror of Russian revolution’ there by acknowledging, the practical base of the revolution was being founded on the metaphors of art and culture. So discursive this process had been that socialistic patterns of movements had very richly drawn upon narratives of culture and civilisation. Dostoevsky, Pushkin and a host of literary artists had in one way or another contributed to the revolution of 1917. Not that it was a conscious effort, in fact, little would they have known about a prospective movement which would in the 20th century phenomenally alter patterns of societal existence not just in Russia, but in the whole of Europe whose tremors were even felt in the Indian sub continent. But artistic pursuits world over had shown to possess an in depth perception of political realities apart from a mere social and cultural metaphysics of the times they were writing about. The art of their philosophy and the philosophy of their art had remarkably coincided. When the socialist movement was seeking metaphors, they had already provided them in their narratives which the revolutionaries spearheading the movement were only to translate them into palpable texts of struggle. And they did. It was too obvious for Lenin not to acknowledge, the genesis of struggles lay in the dotted texts of Tolstoy and others. Almost on the same lines, Victor Hugo, a French poet and playwright who embraced Republicanism soon after the death of Nepoleon 111 in the 18th century had articulated a vision much needed for the outbreak of the French Revolution in 1889. A revolt against repression would have choked midway, but for the intellectual and artistic nourishment Hugo and others provided. The European Renaissance and the era of Enlightenment, through pursuits of art were also salubrious in providing daintily the tools of many a revolution. This is not to suggest, there were no other factors involved in making of a revolution. In fact there were many like social and cultural realities. But, Art in its many folds had provided the much needed impetus.

Even long after the French revolution, its ideas of liberty, equality and fraternity were constant sources of many a poetic genius like Wordsworth who wouldn’t have been read today just for their poetic idiom, but for disseminating a labyrinth of kaleidoscopic virtues struggled out of the revolution. The social patterns of life eked out of it had a paradigmatic correspondence with poetic discourses that had mapped the terrain of struggles fought thereafter including India’s movement for freedom! And again, all struggles, by people in whatever part of the world and during any point of time in recorded history they were fought, have had at bottom a socialistic ethos though called differently by prime participants and critics.

During the modernist movement of art and culture, the equations between artefacts and contemporary struggles, more pronouncedly in the 1950’s and onwards, were almost overlapping. It’s at this juncture that discourses of art and culture began to draw texts simultaneously from public spaces to conceptualise an ideological and political base even as they gave those spaces their metaphorical texts to form a paradigm of struggles. Indian freedom movement had inspired generations of writers who with their poems and many other literary and non-literary endeavours had embedded in their texts seeds of the struggle. Tagore was one of the most inspirational who in his Geethanjali had talked with a fervent zeal of the itinerant need to break the shackles of both the mind and body which he thought were fettered to subjugation of just not the outside forces, but of those interior as well.

Though history tells us, violence was the bi-product of many a revolution alongside the resurgent virtues, India’s fight for freedom at least under Gandhi was able to relinquish the violent `episteme` of earlier struggles even as non-violence per se wasn`t an absolute vice for Gandhi either. He would conduct severe tests on himself to free his `self` of the fetters of ego and enmity. In fact he had subordinated his `self’ to the twin operative modes of Truth and Non-violence. Which were the same in any context of time and space. And if different, he would aspire for Truth even withstanding violence. But they were never ever two poles of his political entity. The truth of Non-violence was to fill the public space and the non-violence of Truth, the private domain. His was an endless narrative of both. And again, Gandhi was the sole custodian of the `soul force`, an epithet he himself had phrased and executed. And in which he was able to integrate even in the most difficult of circumstances the metaphors of Truth and Non-violence that he drew copiously from Puranas and from his understanding of public relations.

Gandhi would retrieve disparate images from Ramayan and Mahabharat to assist his `soul force` and search forbearingly for Truth in private and public spaces. Ram was an embodiment of truth and sagacity in whom he chose to conceptualise a benign and benevolent statehood. Seetha, a virtuoso of great character was for Gandhi a self-tolerant `soul force` herself from whom he learnt to persevere. Likewise Lord Krishn`s teachings of the Geetha Gandhi re-told himself umpteen times had much to offer when in great adversity involving a conflict of the soul, mind and body and also during his transactions with the `other`. He felt, his spirits were kept embellished by his going back to myths which propelled the rare contours of an impregnable `soul force`. His discourses were incomplete unless he had consulted those scripts for a better reflection of himself. Those texts had more than obliged him authenticating or legitimising his ‘soul force’. And if they didn’t, Gandhi knew, he was in a quandary. And then he would seek for the ordeals to self-correct.

Gandhi`s revisiting scripts quite often was only to negotiate a better space for his worldly deeds. At the same time, never did he take refuge in those un-prescriptive texts alone for an antidote in political and social spaces. Nor would Gandhi want his socialism to operate sans an adequate rejuvenating and recouping apparatus to lift his sagging morale. ‘Fasting’, he chose to undergo often times was to release himself of an indictment of the stasis born out of his wrong moral adjudication.

He was very pragmatic in his dealings with society and culture. He would shape his economic perspectives on Ruskin’s ‘Unto This Last’. Which told him of the unassailable truth that only the economic or physical thrift would mean moral degradation. In this he differed almost willingly from the Marxian dialectic which held economic uplift as an inevitable footing for moral and social gradation. Like Jesus, he refused to take recourse in and subject his spirit to an all pervading material promiscuity. He could form his socialistic perspectives with an astounding array of narratives drawn from variegated texts out of which he had devised his own, more nuanced and convoluted than the texts he had negotiated with. Though, many a time, the politics of truth had overwhelmed that of the state, resulting in many misconceptions among his followers and critics alike. Such was the polemics of Gandhi’s politics and philosophy that he was able to transmute the hegemonical colonial rule into a self-introspecting and self-governing Indian consciousness that has sustained India till time. His fight for freedom was not merely to decolonise Indian political space, but also to free India of all existing ills. So his counter discourse to the British Raj had a holistic vision always involving the social scape. Even now, at times of global oneness corroding our sensibility beyond tinkering, Gandhi does hold promise.

When Gandhi was shot at and killed, he invoked Ram, ironically the God his assassin too had held dear to his heart and in that final moment as always Ram belonged to him, and he, to Ram’, but not to the assassin. It was the assassin’s nemesis that Ram could never have belonged anywhere near him.

Gandhi had lived not as much by the drift of precept from practice as by being able to overwhelm it in the consistent struggle to complement the ‘self’ with the ‘other’ and the‘ faith’ with ‘fulfilment’ though at times he manifested in himself an acute wonder at the overriding metaphysics of ‘nature’ above a diligently held narrative of culture! He could delicately balance both never allowing himself to think one ahead of the other.

He would revere equally ardently all other religious texts, Koran and Bible to name only two, to streamline his discursive and socialistic paradigm. He knew, no religion could preach hatred and rancour whatever the provocation and none could ever prescribe divisive tendencies. The kind of oneness he sought from religious texts was of this nature that the contemporary world seems oblivious of! Never feeling enervated of trying to convince his adversaries, Gandhi would ever plead with them that India to remain knit as a multicultural and multilingual political whole, we should recognise Her plural identities.

If we have crisis today in our polity and political maturity, it’s because we have deviated from his all encompassing vision of realising an India only in its plurality. Socialism in the Indian context began to slide along its nemesis the moment we had derecognised this truth.

But experiments and readjustments with Gandhian model, particularly in the areas of society and polity continued despite Gandhi being reduced to a metaphor in actual life and as much in Art where he had offered himself as a convenient tool for representation in literary and cultural discourses. Gandhian denouement was almost a prescriptive endeavour in films, fiction and theatre as also in many other similarly nuanced narratives where the selective and optional lore of Gandhi was placed vis-à-vis an un-impregnable west, fruits of which by now had ceased to be thorny, but too fleshy and seductive to be cast aside.

Marx had talked of village idiocy which he thought was a hindrance to development rather unwittingly and called all the Asiatic societies ‘idiotic’. Gandhi was benignly opposite and ‘village’ in whatever way it existed was very sacred and a free India, for him, meant an unfettered village self-sufficiently existing. His narrative of ‘Gram Swarajya’ was an immanent assertion of India being free of the manacles of inequality of every kind. He had conceived village as a globe in itself rather than the globe as a village, the latter being the fulcrum of globalisation.

Dr. Lohia returned to this concept after Nehru had conclusively upstaged it. Thoroughly read in literature, philosophy and aesthetics, Dr Lohia migrated to the cultural and political spaces these texts had concomitantly offered. He wrote extensively marking these spaces and unmarking those of left over legacy of the British colonialism. India by now had plunged into another bout of colonial symbiosis of both the external and internal kind which Dr Lohia had to deconstruct. He borrowed metaphors from Art and returned his own, making the dynamics of his struggle both participatory and ideological. He devised a post colonial socialist paradigm with which to counter a polity, though democratic, was only gilded in matters of principle and practice. Unlike Nehru who saw villages in the back drop of an urban narrative, Dr Lohia saw cities only in the perceptively rural mould. Himself an endless curator of the past as disseminated in religious texts and epics, Dr Lohia felt, they were insufficient to fully understand the present. But then while deconstructing them, as Gandhi too did, he prolonged their virtues and reviled the vices though he might not have been as atavistic. Not only did he speak vociferously against discrimination based on caste and colour, race and religion, but also against English language and Cricket, two of the most aggrandising metaphors of free India holding sway still, in fact, more markedly than before, in the era of globalisation. Intriguingly, he was against neither in private space!

This seeming paradox between private and public spaces in discourses and narratives alike has been in itself an endearing metaphor with writers world over to explore. Gandhi was the lone political figure who by his sole subjective mores could devise metaphors that would address both the noble and what he thought were the ignoble aspects of life on equal footing relinquishing all paradoxical positions. But after Gandhi, the dialectics became more complex. Once the movements had ebbed to oblivion, most of the writers took refuge in the quiet ambience of their texts sans the overriding ‘texts’ of those movements which had shaped their ideological positions. Literary discourses lost the historicity of their texts and histories, their dialogue with texts of literature and culture!

Societal narratives of culture and civilisation started hibernating inside dominant texts of modernity which were so formidable that the new literary and cultural ‘oeuvre’ began to prescribe itself rather peevishly a space to detect the crisis in the individual delineated outside the social orbit. It was the crisis of confidence in being rootless and impoverished, a state nothing less than pathological and a feeling in no way commensurate with the sociological texts of ordinary world. This world was now to be explored.

Kafka, Camus, Sartre and many belonging to this ‘genre’ drew heavily upon man’s pathology and delusion that had begun to set in though many years after the French revolution. Kafka would portray a situation where life was a nightmare and you would be a worm one fine day or be even arrested for whose fault you would never know. Sartre would redefine the individual space locating the existential ‘angst’ in a character whose private self was an affliction and his societal riposte, a malady. For Camus, it was a turmoil plaguing in being an ‘outsider’. Melville and Hemingway in American literature drew the individual farther, relocating him away from the terrestrial in the cosmos of yet another struggle of man against Nature. For all these writers, man was to be discovered in the cocoon of his own formation. The societal ‘text’ didn’t just exist.

In India, hunger, poverty, exploitation and discrimination were still the staple diet of many a writer. Mahaswetha Devi in Hindi would weave tales of experiences of how subhuman social categories of life meant an eternal struggle between man and man and man and state.

The Kannada fictional world had produced very versatile writers who would deliberate upon societal changes before, during and after the colonialist interface. Kuvempu might see hopes of societal transformation in negotiating with changes brought about by colonial dispensation and the delusion of grandeur that followed. For Anantha murthy, the cultural space would always partake of the social and political though in the end, he might locate an ‘angst’ in the person being responsible for societal inaction. A socialist himself, Dr Murthy would draw metaphors from socialist struggles and create archetypes and the socialist movement spearheaded by Dr Lohia and others had drawn very richly upon those archetypes . This, one to one corresponding dynamism in the narratives of socialist struggles could have been only as much pronounced as in any point of recorded history!

Literary and other modes of discourses at the same time did expose inadequacies of socialism too. As in Devanur Mahadeva, again a Kannada writer who reverted to the self sustaining potential in an individual would have societal texts only at the back drop. Or Thejasvi who enriched the non-fictional Kannada space too alongside the fictional, would like to probe into the cosmic metaphysics with wondrous eyes and discourse upon how enigmatic the universe could be!

The aura of socialism had by now declined. As a consequence perhaps of the struggles for social space finding other ways of expression, its artistic representation too became very peripheral. Literary narratives, by way of retrieving the space it had for a long time hegemonised, began to choose self reflective and societally prevaricating tendencies while non-literary discourses had other areas of exploitation for constructing theoretical oeuvres that could or as it was believed they would explain new global phenomena as it were. Colonial metaphors began to be re-written as discursive narratives which also involved feminist issues which were now offering a new ‘genre’ away from the fictional mode. Thus, these new categories of expression replaced sociological texts in a complex labyrinth of contemporary word culture.

Not that there was an absolute moratorium on fictional representation of intrepid responses to truths of macabre injustice done in the out cry for a global order. Vaidhehi, another Kannada writer, unique in the use of cultural idiom peculiar to a regional community of people would continue to explore gender politics of discrimination in a narrative that throws up an indignant socialistic pursuit by itself. Not given to theorising gender issues, she would narrate in a fictional mould tales of women protagonists who are up, though in a humble way, against an exploitative politics of gender bias and humiliating recipe of disaster. But then, such faint voices would vaporise no sooner than they could be heard.

As recently as now Socialism per se has swapped its space and specificity with other discourses. Ecology, environment, farmers’ issues, economic liberalisation and its upbeat fundamentalist agenda and climate change have all replaced the socialistic repartee of expression and representation. Returning to the question placed in the beginning, it would be imperative to mean, the ambit of Socialism in the fast changing world has lost the preponderant position it had once enjoyed. Inadequacies of its agenda as also the internecine and repugnant myths about it permeated by a uniformed global order have failed to influence and inspire the trajectory of narratives which could stridently interrogate the interface achieved between globalisation and public discourses that seem to posit only the global route to progress and development whose societal concerns are only posturing, but not real!

The moot question muted by texts of globalisation still remains. Has societal orbit metamorphosed into a veritable global scape beyond seemingly retrievable resources of narratives that tend to interrogate a liberal global order? The rich becoming richer and the poor, poorer is still as phenomenal as ever. There is an urgent need to revitalise societal texts which in effectual discourse would at least honour the indomitable presence of the very mundane and ordinary anguishing inside the most insidious and powerful global ‘avatars’. Class structures have not withered away nor has the state as Marx had predicted they would. State, on the other hand continues to subvert and snarl, in a macabre practice of myths and falsehood, all the societal and cultural entities, being astigmatic about reviving how to connect in its discourse, class and community, colour and creed and in the Indian context, caste and its cataclysm which are sobriquets of any social existence.

All the palaver about socialism may have ended. Any social prognosis would still be able to authenticate not so much of the waning away of the state as of its colossal bombardment of the individual and societal space. Marx, Lenin, Gandhi, Dr Lohia and many other socialists had that prognosis and socialism, as an idea and practising tool was the sole repertoire of their struggle which the world today is oblivious of. The worlds they had inhabited and the ideas they had preached and practised are still the locus to perceptively differ from global texts of many a discourse in the present time. Socialism stays and it should.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

When Lewd was Loud

The second edition of DLF I P L ended not with as much fanfare, hype and success as the first played in India did. The reasons are not too far to seek. Played in South Africa the 2nd IPL couldn’t muster enough public support as in India . Though an ordinary South African citizen is as cricket crazy as is his or her Indian counterpart . Further, cricket there, does have a jingoistic appeal. During the apartheid, cricket in South Africa was hegemonised by the white after which the Govt. made it mandatory to at least include one or two black players in the national team though there has always been more black talent than the stipulated to play in the team at any given point of time. Even then cricket among the black has initiated nationalistic spirit. For they still accord cricket a positive role in nation building. More over the South African cricket board still continues to maintain a sort of colonial legacy against which the black players continue to fight by their sheer performance. As for the IPL T20 cricket played in South Africa , a nation still nascent would not approve of the global format of the game sans its national moorings as the black constitute the majority of those loving cricket who still believe, there is a need to imbibe the game in their socio-political and cultural repartee. And the IPL would not fit in. Because, the concept of nationality for them continues to haunt their personal and political space. So much so, cricket as a global sport does not arouse nationalistic spirits sans which cricket as a game fails to inculcate a feeling of oneness. Cricket has always been both a colonial metaphor and a decolonising tool. South Africans still hold the game in this regard. And use it to deconstruct the colonial space. India has outgrown this space, but South Africa , well, is still trying to come to terms with cricket in its newest avatar. Unless the nation is completely decolonised otherwise, it can’t accommodate a sport which has assumed a global oeuvre which South Africa may well be on its way to acquire. Among the people who watched the matches on different grounds, the white were in a majority and the black were very few and far between. Only the media created all the frenzy. In the Indian context, it would have been completely a disparate ball game altogether. For, India has grown as a nation and beyond. But, in South Africa T20 as an IPL dossier transformed as an ex-gratia to be handed over to the Indian board as demurrage, failed to arouse sympathy on expected lines.

Once cricket had lost the unifying appeal in the sub-continent and elsewhere the T20 format changed the game’s cultural and political paradigm into a money spinning apparatus. The franchise owners, sponsors, administrators, players, and all associated with the game in whatever way possible have scripted themselves an envious role which the public at large have very blithely endorsed at least in India . Though South Africa is still hybernating in the romantic notions of the game, another IPL there would make it accept its present structure. But one doesn’t need to dredge the seas to find if T20 and the cultural apotheosis of IPL have done cricket any note of worthiness.

Yes, cricket is no more a gentleman’s game and altruistically at least in this newest gloss as it involves only those so called refined and eclectic and hegemonical conduits taking it away from the rustic and the robust whose passion built cricket and cricket now is without their passion. Never was cricket only a middle class game before. Never was it an epitome of the cultured who thought, it was a game that exacerbated their ego. Cricket had imbibed very perceptively the cultural (not the cultured), social and political aspects of liberation from all sorts of colonialism. As English language did, it decolonised us. And again like English, it helped a diverse people remain united. When needed, cricket had invoked pure nationalistic spirit, for instance, while playing against England , a country which believed, cricket was born there and it was only their birth right to hegemonise it. Ironically England has not won a world cup so far and can’t even dream that it would, in near future! As a lad of 12, I had jumped with joy when India was able to script a memorable win against England in the 1972 test series.

A lot of water has flown in the Ganges since then. Thousands might have swam across the English channel . A similar moment when I thought, I was on cloud nine was when India won its only world cup in 1983 under Kapil whose 175 n.o against Zimbabwe after India were 6 down for 30 and odd runs on board had virtually won India her first cup there and then. It was as majestic as to be on Mt.Everest. Later on, in 1985 when India won an away one day series in Australia , Indian cricket was said to have come of age. As recently as two years ago, when Dhoni won for India her first ever T20 world cup and the first ever to be played, India realised in Dhoni a phenomenon that has continued till date.

But then, IPL, no, it still can’t create a space. The way it was played was astoundingly without a feeling at the gut level of understanding among even those who played it as to why they were playing at all. Cricket had enervated them so much that towards the end when the league stage was closing, our noble and humble cricketers alongside the franchise owners including those whose teams had qualified for the semis seemed further humbled and wore a pathetic look not as much because of the heat or the cold as of the monotony the game had created by being overplayed. Yes, the pecuniary aspects have disfigured the sheen of delight and decorum which once manifested the game’s cultural ethos so grudgingly that sports other than cricket had inveterately looked almost famished. Cricket has changed its vocabulary. Its once glory has ebbed, its grandeur defaced. The willow sounds like counting of dollar bills. The spectators only boom, no more applaud. Those glued to the t v sets only demur in their applause. Street children once playing cricket and thronging t v houses to have a glimpse of their icons have taken to other modes of joy. The ones who had made cricket the singular habitat are feeling like those on the Wall street losing out in millions along side the houses of which they were once the proud owners. Cricket as a habit and a habitat stands impoverished even as the cricketers make millions.

Come to think of the game itself in a context where there was a lot of conundrum creating pulses of varying degrees. You might have felt, the inner dome of heaven had fallen with the batsman cracking as if he had a whip in hand in lieu of the willow! Every run would count. A dot ball would spell your doom if you were in the middle! Sixes and fours, no matter how they were hit and who hit them as long as they were hit, carried the day for you. No aesthetic fervour would draw your hearts out, but a dash of bonhomie seen in unison with the game masquerading the sheer artlessness of it. Neither could you discover a rare heroic deed as you would in a war, but only the histrionics transforming the game beyond the etiquette you would normally associate cricket with.

Cricket was indeed a tamasha. Played in a languid ambience before an audience who more than the game seemed besmirched in an antic filled denouement complimented by commentating on the boundary with intermittent spells of half serious and half comic interludes on cricket and off it ! Camera would click wherever you were and as such televising the game meant showing what was happening off the green turf along side focussing on only the leftovers of cricket on the field. No, there were no subtleties in the game ; nor were there rare nuances the game of cricket had always embodied. They knewcricket per se wouldn’t sell unless joined by the chorus of hype generated by neo-techies who had up their sleeves a cornucopia of ideas to woo people wherever they are! Cricket was only a pretext. The text was no where near it. It comprised that cornucopia unleashed on the game of cricket. This was nothing but lewd. This writer lacks a better word to castigate a phenomenon that has taken over game’s culture.

Cricket has always been a masculine sport, more so now when, like any other game it has started its journey on the global routes. Globalisation itself, as a process, is a heavily loaded masculine form which, like octopus, has spread its tentacles very steep into our chemistry of blood. Our veins are hardened with it and our arteries clogged by its narrative. Otherwise, the sparsely clad cheer leaders who jumped to heavens like birds with wings clipped acknowledging a four or a six, would not have impacted hilarious stands which hooted and fluttered as if possessed! It was a veritable lewd variety embossed on the game of cricket which used women to sell the most unwittingly called the gentleman’s sport. An unfair and an un gentlemanly conduct! A smearing campaign to bring disrepute to not just cricket, but to women at large. Surrendering the nobleness of the game to masqueraders of culture and politics in connivance with the media is a new metaphor of a turgid saga the game of cricket has assumed of late. The IPL’s and ICL’s or any such variety ignobly set to fill corporate coffers is no more an enigma. As Yeats, an Irish nationalist and poet said, some revelation is at hand, surely the second coming is at hand - this he visualised in a rough beast slouching towards Bethelem to be born. The IPL was the rough beast already born in India moving with fast thighs unlike Yeats’ which moved with slow thighs, towards Johansberg to be brought up and fed! In the end who won and who lost was spurious. The corporate bosses had already triumphed even before the IPL landed on an exotic soil.

Monday, May 12, 2008


Since July 25 1990 when the Sensex reached the magical four figure mark for the first time ever heralding the advent of global power and cultural hegemony which saw an inexorable decline in the concept of a welfare state, the discourses of Gandhi and Ambedkar have become rallying points in the Indian political and cultural space. The nationalistic spectrum with them was never as discursive as it has been over these years without them!

One does feel in the larger context of socio-cultural and political ambience an urgency to relocate the two and their ideology as different paradigms opposed to one another and fix them in disparate slots so that they remain mutually exclusive.

The reasons are obvious. The social and private worlds refuse to take up the dalit question. One tends to believe that Gandhian discourse which anchors the self, but not the 'other' is largely emaciated as it does not address the dalit issue in the changing circumstances as an inevitable route to build an egalitarian society. Dalits continue to remain outside the historical process and a political and cultural aesthetics for them is stymied by their presence only on the fringes.

It is true that both these leaders carved a niche for both what they were, and what they were not and again have given themselves an inviolable space in the present for what they are, and what they are not! They opposed colonialist discourses in their own ways and both imbibed the west after their own fashion. Ambedkar was not a die hard ideologue and Gandhi was a bit of a romantic. But both triggered a non violent approach to end the British Raj. They had the same end in view though their ways were practically divergent.

To be clad in suit was not a habit to mime the west. It was a semiotic necessity with significations of an outward text of a dress. Ambedkar was an iconic hero with a style imitable and substance unique. His colonial outfit was not a result of an unconscious mind, but a very well perceived and practiced signifier. Gandhi clad in loin cloth and a shawl draped across his body placed himself in perspective as an authentic server of what he called 'daridra narayan' who was always his spiritual guru. He could invent a native sign to preempt the exotic and deconstruct an existing political and cultural metaphysics. Ambedkar disowned whatever was native. He could transplant an exotic heart into a native body which was again masquerading in an exotic gloss of a dress. A timid body covered in the wistfulness of the west also hid a heart which was to put into practice colonial metaphors of politics and culture against themselves. This was a paradox very ingenuously practiced by him. Gandhi baked the west in native fire and Ambedkar tried to warm the indigenous in the flames of the west though he was not completely enamoured of it. Ambedkar 'othered' the self and Gandhi, quite the opposite! But conceived as images the hermeneutics practiced by them had transcendental reverberations.

An indignant Ambedkar wanted the British to remain till the emancipation of dalits was complete. For Gandhi India's freedom meant freedom from all kinds of oppression from within as also without. Gandhi worked in this wider canvas of political and social determinism which he practiced by inventing his own tools of culture as abstract as truth and as concrete as non-violence with 'Charaka' being a seminal counter discourse to technology. Gandhi was against all great narratives and as such he didn't want the freedom struggle to become one. He embossed every single narrative of protest against caste and class on the larger text of freedom movement. Even Ramayana and Mahabharata from which he drew copiously were conglomerates of little narratives for him.

But Ambedkar's doubts were absolutely genuine. A freedom without the freedom from all macabre inequalities was only an achievement of inequity, but not justice. Freedom sans justice was an egregious act of self-deceit and 'harakiri'. The narrative of freedom would not accompany that of an individual unless the true Indian free of all servitudes was discovered in that narrative. The idea of freedom for him was a veritable discovery of the 'other' which he impeccably sought to achieve.

Gandhi's idea was abstract and heavily nuanced. He wanted to discover the 'other' through his self. The 'other' became his self in the process. Anchoring one led to nourishing the other. But the 'other' was an indefatigably nurtured ego in Ambedkar, but badly needed for the self proclamation of the dalit identity. Swathed in the eclectic and elitist, he smothered the pastness of a past which history was to replace once the British left. Ambedkar historicised the textuality of a past with a futurist agenda indentured on the modern, yet not utopian, and on a premeditated non-existential ethos. He represented the 'angst' of his people which as a predator was ruining the very fabric of their being. He countered this 'angst' and also the past trying to replace it with a history of dalit aesthetics of politics and culture.

Where as Gandhi grounded his metaphysics on the past trying to desilt it of its dregs of all hierarchies. He was an apologist of tradition, but he fawned on the limited space, tradition had offered dalits by founding his theory on the grid of self belief and practising it with the virtue of a saint. He wanted this self belief to be a trait in every dalit.

Gandhi was a diehard practitioner of truth whatever it might have meant in the given context of time and space. If he ever were to choose between truth and non-violence, the twin facets of his metaphysics, he would have stood by the former. He had such a conviction of mind and heart that 'Satya' and 'Ahimsa' were always inclusive and inseparable. His intermittent acts of fasting were committing violence on his own body to spread the message of truth. Jeopardising neither, enroute to freedom from the manacles of British imperialism and also from class and caste oppressions existing within, Gandhi had embarked upon a relentless soul searching endeavour at the same time. His sleeping with naked women was only a grain in an avalanche of self beliefs. He sought to purify himself and also the politics and culture of a nation that was impoverished by centuries of colonial rule. His atavistic candour had the assiduousness of a saint which he directed against himself and a past that had created him.

Ambedkar at another end riveted his energy on the dynamics of caste and creed and the whole apparatus of an oppressive system in vogue for centuries. He was always despaired to predict that such a deeply sunk ‘colonization’ inside India would sour fruits of freedom. The nation had to be rid of an exploitative ‘regimen’ doled out by upper caste hegemony. He didn’t want this to exacerbate with power in the hands of upper caste and class. Only then would he visualize a free India.

For which the country was still unprepared when the British finally left. The seething turmoil of caste and class was a worrying factor for Ambedkar. His distaste for past and tradition was a direct corollary of this.

Gandhi too knew this – the dalit ignominy and upper caste hegemony. His was a multi-pronged approach simultaneously carried out. He conceived India not only as a state but also a society at the same time. They were not different categories to be treated differently. A strong state for him was as important as a well knit society. He remained in Naukali trying to bury communal pathos following partition when the transfer of power was taking place at New Delhi.

In the context of a world order, the talk of welfare state, national identity and boundaries, empowering the dalits and the impermeable nature of the self have all become atrophied. Retrieving Gandhi and Ambedkar and restructuring a post colonial discourse on their coexistent philosophies seems inevitable.

But then the sameness and differences in Gandhi and Ambedkar have to be dealt with together. The complex and profound dialectics between them can be understood only then but not when one is foregrounded ahead of the other. In fact, they enrich and complement each other. If we traverse along one leaving the other by way side, we would pathologise all our discourses and lose both.

Both of them were against elite caste and class being the sole custodians of the new hegemony of power in independent India, even as Gandhi’s naming Nehru as the first Prime Minister of India drew flak from many quarters. The current scenario wants them more for the same reason. The country is not poorer without them, but richer than when they came to inhabit it years ago.
The Sensex, a powerful signifier of nation’s development rises and falls, but the poor man’s plight seems to never end.

This is the truth.

Season of Fruits - NATURE V/S CULTURE

Years ago, every summer, the major part of Malnad used to replicate fleshy smells of fruits and berries. Your nostrils would dilate and your tongue feel to relish the sweet and sour delicacy disseminated through its odour in the ambience.

No part of the year was as revealing to our senses as this one was. In England and for Eliot, yes ‘April is the cruelest month breeding lilacs’. As a contrast, seasonal as also civilizational, April and a couple of months following had been the most cherishable, the sweltering heat not withstanding.

For Keats, the autumn was ‘the season of mists and mellow fruitfulness’. As a transferred epithet, it would be in this part of the world ‘a season of fruits and mellowmistfulness’ as the mist of winter would have dwindled into its mellowing best, grayish blue shades of it still witnessed in early morning till the ball of fire swallowed it up!

Shakespeare’s Lear might say after all his egregious tantrums, ‘Ripeness is all’ realizing his folly in the end and perishing in avuncular pride. But ripeness in Malnad could be a pseudonym for summer which had ripeness writ large till many years ago and has since ceased to be so!

These days, thanks mainly to a jackfruit tree in my back yard still majestically held from inside the terracotta layer of earth, I wake up each morning to a very pleasant jackfruit smell which erases my cultural memories for the sake of the natural. It promises a great day, I would think. The very next moment I am nostalgic.

Living away from the hustle and bustle of the town, I was a privileged soul. As a school boy, I was wont to wander aimlessly like a cloud listening to uncadenced voices of birds and lilting Koels inside forests. Laced with Nature’s symphony the scent of honey combs would strike my nostrils. The swarming bees regaling their summer would put a sting into this intruder who was out to usurp their territory. I wouldn’t mind even the sudden appearance of a cobra raising its hood. I would dart off striding down the undulating terrains.

In such a jaunt, I would be Blakes school boy enjoying every moment outside school gates. To say I was on cloud nine was too obvious. I was on bees knees!

Do not speak of goose berries as they had already joined the most cultivated band of fruits in a city culture space. More precious to my eyes was the sight of black berries known as ‘Kavale Hannu’ grown on spinous shrubs in bunches. They would taste better than grapes and would seem a camouflage of black grapes equally determinant in size and hue.

White barriers were a distinct lot not by their diminutive size but by their collective assemblage on the stalks as if in a queue, a discipline which smacks of school girls. May not be as elegant, but inarguably the best recipe for vacuous bellies on a summer noon!

Then there were champaka berries masquerading as tiny crimson balls of fire, more sour than sweet. The tongue would twitch tasting them and the teeth would trip biting. Yet in the end the fruits would leave a tinge to be savoured for hours.

Butter fruits were a rare variety, innocuous to the tongue as also to the glands. Chip them off at the top, take the seeds out, put a little sugar if you would so desire and empty the fleshy green inner layers with a spoon or gulp enmass, ah! It would taste gorgeous.

Very tiny black and purple berries grown on equally tiny nondescript plants christened ‘Kaki Hannu’ in the native tongue would always be a source of delight to the on looking hawk eyes of children. Just pluck them by feather touch and munch - your mouth ulcers wouldn’t need a better cure!

The list is endless. Two months into the cruel heat of the season with intermittent showers invigorating a deadened earth, there appeared on trees a kind of black berries, jet black sometimes visible to the naked eye from a distance as chandelier type bunches dangling from amidst light green leaved stalks, knitted almost grape like, they were difficult to access unless you climbed the tree and plucked them. But alas! You shot an arrow or threw a stone aiming at them from below; you would be belittling those berries and your efforts. Instead you would climb onto the tree gently and pluck. Put them in, roll with your tongue separating the dark skinny layer from the seed which you would omit, the fleshy mash would turn your mouth purple. You would look like a demon personified along side your taste buds enjoying each bit of it.

And finally, the Jackfruit whose smell stirs me each morning. Indeed the jackfruit is the king, a capacious repository of all fruits! As now it didn’t have many takers those days. Its elliptical but voluminous size would be forbidding in itself. It is one fruit you would not eat as you would a mango! Knives and sickles and a dab and deft hand using them to perfection would do the trick. An entire morning newspaper to erase the gums and very skilled and supple hands to slice, the flakes would seem in pristine yellow. Nothing could be more tempting. Take a flake, chip it at the top, get the seed out, put a drop or two of coconut oil and devour the whole flake. You would feel having eaten nothing like this before! Not just one, a plenty to follow and fill to the brim. You wouldn’t need a meal for days! Pity the king is dethroned!

In hindsight, I look at them as if in a reverie. Those fruits and my favourite haunt of forests are history now. Nature has succumbed and fruits of culture have begun to throng the market place. Gumless jackfruit is only one of many cultural variants. Fruits have made themselves a global route. The native varieties are gleefully discarded. Only the designer fruits best suited for the modern man’s palate, remain. As the timbered voices have obfuscated uncadenced notes, fruits of culture have bedeviled those of nature!

Gone are those days. So also the forests. You would find no shrubs swathed in their berries. No ambience awash with little tunes. Birds have had their last migration, perhaps and little bees are being cultivated in man made gardens.

We are impoverished. So are our tastes.

NINASAM ‘Thirugata’

NINASAM’s one of most celebrated projects, its theatre repertory, nicknamed Thirugata is a unique feat in the history of any theatre movement. Always alive to an imposing reality of our times, but not over zealous in only staging the plays of the present, Thirugata has come of age. For over two decades now, its presence along the length and breadth of Karnataka has evoked considerable enthusiasm and appreciation - as much for the quality of production as also for the selection of plays which, is determined in essence by ongoing debates on culture and society, there transformation and transmuting syndromes and more importantly the politics of life itself. Thirugata would produce past plays with the same urgency it would bring on to the stage the present ones.

No theatre can exist in vacuum. It should respond to issues which are both individual and collective; imminent and immanent. But then, Thirugata is never a political theater which then would become propagandist sans its aesthetic and literary merits.

No theatre is apolitical either. In fact no art, as no man is as such. Including our careless swatting at the flies!

Thirugata needs to be located I this context. Since its inception in 1985, not amidst fanfare, but in a modest way which in itself reflects a cultural ethos of its own, simplicity and grace, this repertory of NINASAM has always tried to deconstruct a raging world order which thrives on prosperity and progress alone.

No gloss nor glamour; no irritable presence of technology in its productions; none of the corporate jamboree that sponsors theatre in cities. No, Thirugata would have none of these. Even a far cry from yuppies who believe life sans theatre is as much worth living!

Yes, life is larger than art with its varied manifestations. But faint and feeble voice of theatre can morph our life from its lavish buccaneering before mega ‘texts’ of globalization.

Thirugata is political in this regard. In its developing an antithetical view to overriding influences of a hegemonical system not just of the exotic, but also of the indigenous revivalist interests. Laced with this is the twin message of democracy and decentralization any NINASAM activity seems to embody. Thirugata has become highly evolved over the years in disseminating ideas of self rule and a decentred world order.

In the beginning Thirugata used to stage four plays - one from Kannada and another from outside it; one from the west and another for children. By and by, the lack of human resource and managerial logistics forced Thirugata to have only two plays.

Thirugata begins its peregrination with its premier shows at Heggodu every October on the occasion of a culture course NINASAM organizes, with a specific thrust area which gets reflected though slantly in the plays chosen for Thirugata.

Two plays this year with a thrust area at the backdrop being ‘A new idiom for the new century’ – interrogating intellectual certitudes; critique the existing order in contrasting styles and substance. A chalk and cheese variety in short.

An ensemble of seven one act plays by P.Lankesh, ‘Ee Naraka Ee Pulaka’ directed by Raghunandana with his self indulgent sullenness is a tough and serious watch. Jarring music and an unintelligible philosophy would make the audience aghast and perspire. But then, it is a philosophical variant Raghu tries to communicate which our minds refuse to appreciate. The seven Lankesh plays as seven ambiguous types depict typical middleclass ‘angst’ and its desires and illusions.

The production problamatizes the split in the individual self relocating it in the larger context of the politics of a new order. Thereby the Lankesh plays acquire a new semantics and vocabulary to contend with the mesmerizing presence of an exclusivist global culture. It uncovers an enigma; of a generic kind given us by our own seething discontent at the values we anchor and cherish the fatigue it brings out and a sense of spiritual debility too. In the end a feeling of vacuousness sinks in amid ruins of glory. Something that occurs to Lear and Macbeth after their committing an egregious act.

Lokottame a play adapted from Lycistrata, a comedy written during fifth century B.C by a Greek playwright Aristophanes directed by Chennakeshava contemporizes an ancient, but a very practical wisdom of an approach to war and peace.

Hatred divides, but grief unites. Women of two Greek states make a common cause, their grief over their spouses involvement in a war against each other. This leaves them in constant peril and sexual atrophy making them languish on their beds. A peace in not a sight. The two women of the two states come together even as their partners are waging a needless war. They want to force them to recognizing their rights to marital bliss and familial attachment, as also to political governance. There is no course left over to them! Except swearing they would not sleep with them unless they stopped war. The spouses relent and return to their beds!

The production translates a tragic melodrama into a delightful comedy even as the original play puts in perspective an ‘innovative’ route to end war. Lokottame subsumes a vocabulary of resistance and rebellion in a low mimetic mode which at the same time underscores horrors of war and attrition.

Ee naraka…’ dramatizes the squalor of modern man alienated from yet, connected to the outside world which flatters to deceive. Better, we call this production ‘e- naraka, e- pulaka' to be able to further negotiate with our netted pursuits.

Lokkottame is a collective search for indoctrinating the grammar of war. It tickles us and teases. Men would search their hearts and women, reclaim their invincible arms of rejection. The sun wryly smiles on us!

One uncovers the facsimilies of our bliss and the other, the impermeable nature of our obsession with the absurd and the abstract; one through seriously questioning and the other through regaling to a point where the truth begins to dawn on us. Watching them refreshes us and in the Brechtian terms instructs us.
(NINASAM is a cultural organisation located in the village of Heggodu in Sagar Taluk of the Shivamogga district in the state of Karnataka, India. Ninasam (also spelt as Neenasam) is the short form of Sri Neelakanteshwara Naatyaseva Sangha, an organsiation dedicated to the growth of drama, films and publishing. Ninasam was the brainchild of the renowned dramatist and Magsaysay award winner, K V Subbanna. It is currently headed by K V Akshara, the son of Subbanna.)

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Udaya Kalavidaru – Taking Theatre to People

Where is the theatre today heading? Has the corporate culture sung the final psalms on it in a choric dirge? Has the media gloss and glamour moved away people from it? Where is the cultural variant for people if theatre in the contemporary world has ceased to be of any relevance?
‘Udaya Kalavidaru’, Sagar (Shimoga district) try to answer. They are a motley theatre group of amateurs engaged in a quiet theatre revolution in the last 60 years. A precocious, but a passionate blend of young and old this theatre group was in the beginning, developed over a period of time into a mature array of artists whose mainstay was not theatre, but varied professional practices. Being highly devout custodians of theatre fascination, they would spend off hours for theatre activities like producing and staging plays alongside discoursing on matters of the very mundane and ordinary.

Under theatre director late N. R. Masur, they had specialized in staging plays by Sri Ranga. Though unique, in the history of theatre in the whole of India, to translate a single playwright’s texts into unforgettable theatre performances, for many many years, such an uncanny act had distilled off a myth that they could bring only Sri Ranga on stage ! Nonetheless, Sri Ranga’s plays had such an endearing oeuvre reaching out to small groups of theatre lovers in the vicinity. Through Sri Ranga, they had trained themselves in theatre appreciation by decoding theatre language into infinite possibilities of life itself!

In course of time, this minority of theatre goers had enlarged their space. Now they were being treated to plays by as disparate and different play wrights as Shakespeare, Brecht, Kailasam, Lankesh, Kambar, Karnad and others who formed an intrepid galaxy of dramatists produced on the stage by another renowned theatre director Dr Guru Rao Bapat, basically an English teacher.

60 years hence, theatre world over is not the same unenviable experience it was. Corporate bonhomie has appropriated art and its production. And media doles out capsules of Art for instant consumption. The gorgeous ‘other’ has abridged and obfuscated the miniature ‘self’ and in the circumstances theatre has become a corporate component of elite exclusiveness!

Taking theatre to people
To retrieve theatre from the stranglehold of the global elite whose mega replications of theatre appreciation are seen only in epic grandeurs, is an urgent issue to be addressed. The inveterate ideological moorings of the theatre past in being post-colonial and anti-establishment have to be recovered and relocated in a counter discourse of theatre.

‘Udaya Kalavidaru’ have precisely started this alternative discourse of theatre by taking it to people and modifying their space away from digital surveillance.

‘Mane Mane Mathu’ is how it has all begun. And then it has reoriented itself into ‘Mane Mane Nataka’. One’s urge to become just professionals and nothing else and succeede in life is always a sterile course of creativity. ‘Mane Mane Nataka’ should alter this course.

Theatre situated to do just this can always believe it can restart a dialogue with a myopic mass of people and open their eyes to different possibilities of life. Theatre in the post modern world is a remedial exercise for them.

‘Udaya Kalavidaru’ choose to do just this. But how?

Two short productions of just 45 minutes each, one Russian and another Kannada staged in an intimate theatre ambience using very simple tools of theatre like music and sound which are most sober and apt; cast and costume which are as revealing as they are distinct and; light, which is just the bare minimum, are being staged in small halls with a seating capacity of just over 20 and in corners of streets to where people can have access from just outside their homes. Theatre would become education and experience, both.

‘Kadu Manushya’ (adopted from Chekhov’s One Act Play The Bear) directed by Dr. Guru Rao Bapat is a play that exposes the duplicity of the bourgeois class of people whose love and hate are easily swapped. Poovamma, who is a widow of dimpled cheeks still anchors her looks as a supplement of her avowed grief over her husband’s death offers her love in the end to escape repaying the loan her late husband is alleged to have borrowed from Poonacha. Poonacha too, a conceited lover, doesn’t ask for more!

It is an abject revelation of our times when all relations are commodities and when emotions that peel as in an onion without pact or commitment make little impact on our torn selves.
The play ‘Kunta Kunta Kuravatthi’ written by Champa and directed by Manjunatha Jedikuni shows our timid selves in absurd manifestations only to further depict how we try to create an inviolable space to conceal our weak links. Locked in a triangular web, a blind, a lame and a deaf improvise all canons of speech to deny themselves a pre destined world of being. Their absurd world makes a mockery of a cherished goal and purpose we have given ourselves. Their inimitable styles of bothering one another are a slant demonstration of the world we inhabit.

The two plays should help eschew our ego. We inhabit both the worlds - the bourgeois, masking deceitfully our indulgent pursuits of bliss and the ordinary, trying to define our destiny in the new global world order. ‘Kadu Manushya’ and ‘Kunta Kunta ……’ annihilate both the worlds and make us look inwards.

Selecting these two plays to take them to people is only to make people realize the absurdity of being as also the elusive nature of space into which they try to prompt themselves.
‘Udaya Kalavidaru’ plan to take these plays to different audiences in different cultural milieu which the corporate world tries to homogenize.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Vaidehi : A Reluctant Feminist

During the 70’s when feminism in Europe had reached its zenith morphing phenomenally literary and cultural ambience, a writer in Kannada a quiet ‘crusader’ was doing her bit interrogating mildly the patriarchal text within the remnants of tradition. A sustained story teller with a penchant for uncovering the hidden agenda of patriarchy; an author who would subsume in her tales a wry sense of memoir; a soul of a writer who knew her effort was to sneak into mysterious and enigmatic domain of women with a language rich in regional moorings and a style which was to later establish her as almost a ‘cult’ figure in matters of defining women’s role inside a rigorous text of tradition.

Vaidehi is too renowned to need a fact file; any history of Kannada literature would remain impoverished without foregrounding her contribution. The range of her stories may not be very vast. But then she creates little texts of women whose woes have a morbidity of being gender specific.

She didn’t intend to create history of women and of women’s writing with an ideological indebtedness. Nor did Vaidehi have an exclusive aesthetic for women in mind. These were the marked features of European feminism.

Her stories might display a lack of awareness of where Feminism in Europe was heading from an innocuous and revisionary readings of male texts to an extremely radical and revolutionary text of lesbianism. Vaidehi wouldn’t question male hegemony to an extent that it would itself generate a crisis. She chose to be different.

Womanhood for her is a concealed text vis – a – vis the dominant text of patriarchy. Timid and shy, her women characters know they are women and recognized as such by established norms. No one is born a woman, feminists might say. She is made one and constructed how she should be!

Vaidehi is perceptively different. Womanhood is not a troublesome virtue nor is it a deplorable gender category either. She wouldn’t create male or female incarnations of the ‘other’. She would not even create a ‘Durgi’, a female incarnation of masculinity in her subtle narratives. Masculinity for her is not an answer to feminine pathos.

Her tales differ – from the preoccupations of a conscious philosophical and ideological frame of the feminism of the west as also from the mythical and the legendary past of the east. Though myth is not what it is in its ‘original’ text!

The texts she weaves in her tales are typically contemporary - both in spirit and time. Also in the way they negotiate a space for women amid an ever deferring peroration of male hegemony.

The backdrop is traditional; but the treatment cultural and societal; the stance is of a liberal humanist; but the trait, softly rebellious. The texture of her tales is a web of both the mellifluous and melancholic. Yet they betray a sense of political correctness.
In matters of morals and matrimony, Vaidehi wouldn’t ‘transgress’ lores of tradition. Most of her early tales are situated in the institutional text of marriage. A woman losing her husband early, one remaining unmarried for long and the married living in a deheded ‘paradise’ constitute macabre texts of the tales of woe. But then her narratives are not tear jerkers. A tradition that ‘others’ these woman is only frowned at. Not edged out as tenacious and an unaccommodating. Yes, tradition is a negotiable space for Vaidehi. But not at the cost of dignity and self - respect of woman.

A young woman becomes a widow in ‘Bedakata Badukella’ inside just six months of her marriage. She is destined to be so unless the fate would have it otherwise. The text of ‘widowhood ‘ is enough pretext for tradition to blame it on destiny and fate further isolating and enervating her. A woman in ‘O! Jagatthe’ is orphaned in the loss of her son. There is another world, of the rich untouched by the gruesome irony.

Vaidehi exposes the turbid and mean, defines a hierarchical structure by relocating women’s position in which women become aware albeit implicitly of a dominant discourse. Of patriarchy that hegemonises tradition.

Suma, a timid girl understands how she is left out of the ‘ceremonial’ text of marriage into which she is still uninitiated. Yet she tries to partake of the insidious rich and powerful who prescribe an ordinary woman’s role in the texts of ceremonies and occasions.

Women in Vaidehi’s fiction are a ‘muted’ lot. Their silent zones provide Vaidehi with a creative oeuvre. Their isolated spaces inside the oppressor’s territory send her coded signals to be tapped in the linguistic and cultural archiving.

Archiving hapless women’s psyche is a formidable repertoire in Vaidehi. Not vocal, but always reflexive such women would try beneath their conscience to unleash themselves from the tether of a prescriptive tradition.

Yashee in ‘Chippu’ wants to wriggle out of the cocoon, a metaphor for tradition. Out of which she peeps reflecting if the change in her marital status would alter her matrix of an imagined bliss.

Achala in ‘Antharangada Putagalu’ is unmarried. Subbi too is unmarried, but a mother. Subbi demythifies the text of marriage and Achala can only try to textualise its myth. For Subbi, marriage is a myth and for Achala a text. An indispensable text to be possessed and if possible ‘read’! Morals and mores of tradition don’t really bother Subbi. Subbi and Achala represent varied zones of marriage and their interactive impact.

Like wise Boby and Kusum in another tale of woe reexamine codes of marital life. Considered the sole text of a woman’s happiness, marriage is only a common space between man and woman whether the woman is guaranteed a blissful zone in marriage is trivial.

Marriage is a signification - a sign of a secure well being. Bobby is eager to marry off her daughter. Kusum has left her husband behind. The dialectical is very intriguing. Both are desperate. One to get inside the text of marriage and the other to deflect from it. One feels the agony and pain of being married and the other wants to discover the pleasures though she had none, in her daughter marrying. One registers a break and the other expands the texts of tradition.

Vaidehi too needed a break. A break from revealing intrepid versions of tradition with woman used as cultural and social practitioners of it. Mapping woes and worries of women inside a rigid text of tradition would have famished her creative potential.

Vaidehi would now tap abstract spaces in women’s texts for a possible invariant in story telling. Her narratavising would change. From the matter of fact to the lyrical and poetic. Women’s voices become ‘asides’, their roles symbolic and suggestive. They would arraign themselves in their inner being even as a ‘meandering’ tone would try to possibly subvert and effectively dislodge a tradition that has always consigned them to their fractions periphery.

‘Gola’ and ‘Tarangagalu’ are stories featured in this mould. Shakunthale is a character, though not created in the mythic ‘time’, but indentured in an emotional past. She wants to be recognized in this past. A past that Dushyantha in his ‘mythical playfulness’ has ignored. A myth is recreated. Which sustains Shakunthala’s deeply held feelings.

The advent of modernity situates Vaidehi in the third phase of her writing. From the realistic to the poetic and lyrical and now to the discursive.

The patriarchy shifts its emphasis in the modern paradigm. Relationships too shift. From the social and cultural to the economic and material. Modernity is believed to enhance woman’s idea of freedom. But then it is a connivance. Between this text and an avuncular patriarchy. Only to delimit a woman’s conscience.

Vaidehi portrays Sougandhi ( ‘Sougandhiya Swagathagalu’ ) a woman who is initiated into the modern ‘text’. She gets a transfer to a different place of work of her own volition. Away from her parents but into the care of a woman substituting as parents. When this woman too goes away, Sougandhi would not take leave to back home. A day’s off work and away from the parental care would have given ages to brood over her liberty. But opening the door, she finds her parents standing at the threshold. Sougandhi too for her sake stands ‘muted’ on the threshold between modernity and tradition! She is a lone incumbent of the two conniving texts! Which claim equal shares of her body and mind. She is not only detextualised, but ‘detextured’ too!

‘Gulabi Talkies’ presents a different paradigm. Of modernity which sees in woman a real proclivity for change. From the male dominion which had obfuscated women territory. Arrival of cinema ushers in an indulgent pursuit of life restructured by modern glamour and glory. It sets in a glut of exigencies of desires and fulfillments. It crates for them a fairy land. It distills in them a hopeful morrow from a silted past. A coded life of tradition is thrown open like ‘magic casements on perilous seas’.

Vaidehi may have refused time and again to be called a feminist. She is not a stilted reader of tradition and culture either; but a firmly footed exponent of woman’s texts. She may not be a feminist in the western theoretical mould. Yet feminism is ingrained in her texts. She may not have been consciously creating history of woman and of women’s writing. But beneath her tales is a vision of the mundane and ordinary. She may not have developed an exclusive aesthetics for women’s writing. Yet her tales exhibit a rare linguistic oeuvre.

Ideology and politics are far off. Her diagnostics of culture and society are rooted in her moorings. Feminism may be a loaded term to describe her tales. But calling her a feminist would accord her fiction political correctness. Read as discourses her texts would assume the ideological and philosophical.